There are countless museums in London, something for everyone. While the British Museum, the National Gallery, and the Tate(s) may be top of mind, it could be easy to overlook some splendid museums in Kensington, a museum district with a strong appeal for Londoners.
Here are the three museums that rank among the locals’ favorites. All are easy to see and enjoy on your Untours stay in London. And remarkably, the permanent collections of all of these museums are free to enter and explore.
Victoria and Albert Museum
Developed by Prince Albert in the mid 19th century, the Victoria and Albert Museum is the world’s largest museum of decorative arts. If this description sounds off-putting – a building full of tapestries – then it’s misleading.
The collection is magnificent, coming from every corner of the globe and from over 5,000 years of history, right up to the current day. Far Eastern ceramics and textiles (with a particularly large collection of Islamic art) jostle with ancient Roman and Greek sculptures and statues, jewelry from across the world, medieval objects and furniture, the largest collection of Italian Renaissance items outside of Italy, art from China and Japan, and so the list goes on.
It’s impossible to see everything in one visit. Da Vinci’s notebooks and the Raphael cartoons are highlights, and the museum hosts excellent exhibits on fashion and textiles.
Check the latest on the V&A website.
Natural History Museum
Built in the 1860s and 1870s, the Natural History Museum is actually just off the main Exhibition Road. Its large and architecturally beautiful façade and main entrance are on Cromwell Road, opposite the French consulate and lycee (high school).
As the name suggests, this is the main London museum of botany, zoology, geology, and paleontology, best known for its huge dinosaur fossil collection and exhibitions. The grand central hall was until recently home to “Dippy” (a 105-foot-long replica of a diplodocus skeleton), but this has recently been replaced by an equally immense skeleton of a blue whale.
Due to the popularity of dinosaurs with families and children, you should expect more of a wait to get into this museums, even though it is free.
Plan ahead on the Natural History Museum website.
This fascinating museum is a must for anyone with an interest in science and engineering. The deceptively small front to the building opens up into a massive collection over many floors.
The main permanent galleries include exhibitions relating to power and the Industrial Revolution, space exploration and telecommunications, and flight. The fascinating recent addition, Making the Modern World, houses technological achievements, displayed chronologically, such as the original Stephenson’s Rocket (train), Watson and Crick’s double helix, and the (very claustrophobic) Apollo 10 command module.
Read more on the Science Museum’s website.
When you join us in London for a week or two on an Untour, you’ll have a day or more to explore these treasures. See you in London.